Leaving Independence – Taking Mom’s Car, Part II

The leaves are beginning to turn, the first football games have been played, and the streets are a little safer. But I am jumping ahead….

When I first set out to dissuade my mother from driving, I was of the opinion, as were my siblings, that she probably didn’t have the visual acuity, nor the reflex response time to deal with any sudden potential road hazards. Things like bicyclists popping out, or deer or who knows what, jumping in front of her car. All sorts of images can pop into your mind if you allow. Mostly, I didn’t want to see my mom hurt in an accident, or anyone else.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the veracity of her anger at having her wheels hijacked by us, her well-meaning offspring. Although she was willing to have the State licensing department assess her, she was not highly motivated to set up that date with destiny.

In the state of Michigan, a person can anonymously request such an evaluation of a person’s ability to drive, and the state will send them a letter requesting their presence, accompanied by another driver. This request was made promptly.

In the meantime, it was mutually decided by said naughty children, to return the car to her, with a promise of making such appearance before a state evaluator. I cringed at her being in the driver’s seat, and prayed for her safe deliverance from unforeseen obstacles.

Weeks flew by before I received a notice from the Secretary of State notifying me that she would be evaluated per our request. More weeks passed, as bureaucracies move just about as fast as Christmas arrives to a five-year-old. My sister from the south traveled to China for a three week vacation, returned home, then flew north for her annual visit before my mother did finally receive said invitation from the state to come and be evaluated.

As luck would have it, the notice arrived when my sister was there, available to take some of the flack from a disgruntled mother. My sister is the “good” kid, in my mother’s eyes, so I was somewhat vindicated by the reinforcement of the good kid agreeing with the necessity of the test. Mother harrumphed and pooh-poohed us.

Mother’s final assault on my character was one of disloyalty to her, that I should stand up for her against anyone who thought her incapable of driving, in spite of the fact that she knew I believed her unfit. Good sister asked Mother if she thought I should lie?

I bit my tongue, remained mute. The tempest was diffused, and all was calm.

My brother, the long lost twin of the Artful Dodger, was conveniently absent from most of the tirades and outbursts, phoning in his opinion in brief conversations, while never actually catching the full hit of her 85-year-old Irish tantrums.

Prior to the actual test date, Mom had been to her doctor for a brief check up. Along with her evaluation, a medical assessment was also required. Her doctor was advised that we all thought her driving days were numbered and that it might be a good idea if he joined us in adding his voice to that effect. He was only too happy to do so.

Sadly, the one voice of reason, her eye doctor, had totally missed the boat during her last encounter. Her primary argument was that if her ophthalmologist said she could see, then that was good enough for her. She was sent home with the notation “OK to drive” written on it, while remarking that there are some notable visual handicaps, i.e. no peripheral vision.

Clearly, she was not okay to drive.

Mom drove over from her new residence in the “home” as the old girls refer to it, to pick me up. She was there a full hour prior to her appointment, a mere 10 minute drive. I was just returning from lunch with the Artful Dodger boy, curious why we must leave so early, after all it wasn’t an airport check-in.

“We need time to find the office, and I need to compose myself.” I was told.

It seemed to me that Mom was more than a little stressed, so I played the role of the soother. “You’ll be fine, we have plenty of time. It’s a beautiful day.” Etc, etc, etc.

As it happened, she was right. The office had moved to another place in the spacious mall, and she had to hike to the new office in her slow gait, me pulling her along.

I spotted the corner where evaluation tests were administered, signed her in and got her seated. Another couple, obviously not octogenarians were undergoing their own test. I decided that I’d better bring her car around to that side of the building, so she wouldn’t have to make a long haul to her car for a driving test.

By the time I had returned, the assessment had been made. Mom was exiting the office to fill out some forms (always lots of paperwork with government agencies) with a disgusted look on her face. When I asked her what happened, she said “I could have saved you the trip. My vision test isn’t good enough.” And that was it. License taken.

She couldn’t stand long enough to wait in the next line to get a new picture taken for an official state identification card, so I stood in for her. When we were called up for our turn, she had to sign a card. The woman pointed where to sign, and she groused, “I can see,” and snatched it from her, then started to sign in the wrong place. The woman smiled at me, redirected Mom to sign in the box. Then, “well, I suppose I can’t see too well.”

Her new picture showed a weak smile, keeping a stiff upper lip, but the proud woman was disappointed. Another loss to deal with.

As we were leaving the State offices, I said “Look at it this way Mom, you can retire your driver’s license with a perfect record! No tickets, not even a parking ticket.”

Still, it is a bitter pill to swallow. And so, the best thought I could have to remedy that was a trip to the Steak & Shake, to heck with the calories: two giant milk shakes, to go,

Please.

Nancy Nylen